Do I need flood insurance?
If your home is located in a flood plain, your lender will require flood insurance. But just because your home is not in a designated flood plain, don't assume you will never have flood damage. Flooding is the most common, costly and deadly severe weather related natural disaster in the country. If your home is one of the 13 million American homes that are located in a high-risk flood area, you actually have a 26 percent chance of flooding during the course of a 30 year mortgage - far greater than the 10 percent risk of experiencing a fire during the same timeframe. And flood policies may be beneficial when you consider the average individual flood claim amounts to more than $20,000
Depending on where your home is located in Massachusetts, you may be able to purchase flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program. Administered by the federal government, the insurance is available to renters, homeowners and business owners through approximately 85 insurance companies in more than 20,800 participating communities nationwide. Your producer or company can help you with application forms for flood coverage.
Flood insurance is available to protect homes, condominiums, apartments and nonresidential buildings, including commercial structures. A maximum of $250,000 of building coverage is available for single-family residential buildings; $250,000 per unit for residential condominiums. The limit for contents coverage on all residential buildings is $100,000, which is also available to renters. Commercial structures can be insured to a limit of $500,000 for the building and $500,000 for the contents.
Can I buy insurance immediately before or during a flood?
You can purchase flood coverage at any time. There is a 30-day waiting period after you've applied and paid the premium before the policy is effective, with the following exceptions:
- If the initial purchase of flood insurance is in connection with the making, increasing, extending or renewing of a loan, there is no waiting period. The coverage becomes effective at the time of the loan, provided application and payment of premium is made at or prior to loan closing.
- If the initial purchase of flood insurance is made during the 13-month period following the effective date of a revised flood map for a community, there is a one-day waiting period. This only applies where the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) is revised to show the building to be in an Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) when it had not been in an SFHA.
The policy does not cover a "loss in progress,"defined by the NFIP as a loss occurring as of 12:01 a.m. on the first day of the policy term. In addition, you cannot increase the amount of insurance coverage you have during a loss in progress. You are still eligible to purchase flood insurance after your home, apartment or business has been flooded, provided that your community is participating in the NFIP.
Does the NFIP cover flooding resulting from the overflow of rivers?
The NFIP defines covered flooding as a general and temporary condition during which the surface of normally dry land is partially or completely inundated. Two properties in the area or two or more acres must be affected. Flooding can be caused by:
- The overflow of inland or tidal waters, or
- The unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source, such as heavy rainfall, or
- Mudslides, i.e., mudflows, caused by flooding, that could be described as a river of liquid and flowing mud and
- The collapse or destabilization of land along the shore of a lake or other body of water, resulting from erosion or the effect of waves, or water currents exceeding normal, cyclical levels.
It should be noted that the NFIP will cover damages from water that backs up through sewers and drains, discharges from a sump pump, or seeps or leaks on or through the covered property, but only if a flood occurs in the area and the flood is the proximate cause of the sewer or drain backup, sump pump discharge or seepage of water.
What if I have water damage to my home not caused by flooding?
Most home insurance policies generally require you do the following things:
- If you intend to file a claim for a loss, give immediate notice of a possible claim to your insurance company or licensed producer. If the loss is a theft, also notify the police. If your checkbook or credit cards are missing, contact your bank or credit card company immediately.
- Protect your property from further loss or damage. If you make temporary repairs, keep a record of what you do and save all receipts for all expenses you incur in undertaking repairs, including, for example, buying plywood and nails to board up broken windows.
- Give your insurance producer, claims adjuster and/or insurance company a copy of a list of all damaged, destroyed or stolen property (being sure to keep a copy for yourself). In case of theft, be sure to give another copy to the police.
- Show the damaged property to your insurance producer, claims adjuster and/or insurance company, if asked. Your company may also require a "proof of loss"statement be submitted to them. Do not dispose of any damaged property until your producer, claims adjuster and/or company says you can.
- If you feel that the amount of money offered by your insurance company to pay for a loss is not fair or there are other insurer practices that seem unfair or deceptive, there are several alternative courses of action that you may want to consider;
- You can demand an appraisal, per the terms of your homeowners insurance policy, which is a method for resolving the question of the loss amount when the insurer and insured can't agree;
- You can file a complaint with the Massachusetts Division of Insurance;
- You can file a claim in small claims court; or
- You can hire a lawyer to represent your interests in court.
How can I file a NFIP flood insurance claim?
- If possible, photograph the outside of the premises, showing any damage or flooding. Also, photograph the inside of the premises, showing the damaged property and the height of the water if your property was flooded.
- Separate the damaged from the undamaged property and put it in the best possible order for the insurance adjuster's examination. If reasonably possible, protect the property from further damage.
- When the adjuster visits your property, let him or her know if you need an advance or partial payment of loss. Again, good records can assist your insurance companies and the NFIP in giving you an advance payment. Use your inventory to work with the adjuster in presenting your claim.